Eric Dinerstein William C. Young
Iceland, 20-25 August 2016
Day 1: Sunday, 21 August, part 4/5
Tjörnin Pond in Reykjavík
We parked on the street next to Tjörnin Pond at 3:30 and stayed an hour, making our way around 1/5th of the pond to the north end with more buildings. Ducks and gulls had gathered there, fed by people tossing bread. Here I saw my first Whooper Swan, resting on the tiny island in the middle of the pond.
— eBird list
On the walk back to the car, we took a sidetrip into Mæðragarður (Mothers Garden) across the street from the pond. There I saw my first Redwing, a type of thrush that sounds almost exactly like our American Robins, and I also saw an adult Eurasian Blackbird accompanied by some youngsters. These are the blackbirds the Beatles wrote about, and they sound just like the bird in the song. The first time I heard that birdsong was in Australia, and because of the Beetles song, I immediately knew what bird that was singing. Mæðragarður was a small garden with a clump of trees, some grass, and a small fountain.
These blackbirds and Redwings are thrushes, closely related to the American Robin and American bluebird species. Blackbird species in the US are in a completely different family. Common names can be so confusing! Our robins are also not related to European Robins, which were identified and named first. When settlers got to America and saw our perching birds with orange breasts, they reminded them of their own back home, so they gave them the same name. By the way, if you wonder at my capitalization, I follow the standard of capitalizing full common names, but not general names; therefore, blackbirds (since I didn't specify 'Eurasian Blackbirds') and Redwings.
In this garden we encountered an odd restroom. On the outside, it was cylindrical in shape, and was occupied when we got to it, so we waited. Eventually a woman emerged, but when we turned to the toilet, the door was closed and the sign said "Occupied" - so fast! How did someone else edge in when our backs were turned for one second?? A minute later, the door was open again. I entered a very tight space - only half the cylinder made up the "stall". The door closed itself automatically behind me, and when I looked down at the floor, I saw it was metal and moved slightly; I think it was a scale of sorts, to detect weight and close the door. Everything inside was wet, so I used it carefully. After, I followed the instructions to place my hands inside the dark rectangular opening in the wall above the toilet, which sprayed my hands with some liquid and then blew air on them. I could hardly get out the door fast enough before it began to close on me, and the thing marked itself as "Occupied" again.
While inside, I read a sign that explained that the toilet cleans itself between uses. We figured the toilet must retract back into the other half of the cylinder and be sprayed down in there before returning to its position, and then the door opens; this is why everything was wet when I entered.
This toilet was free to use, but a woman I met on the plane later said she encountered pay toilets, which was the only time she needed to have cash/coins in what was otherwise a fairly cashless society.
The sun broke through toward the end of our time at Tjörnin, so I got off a couple shots with sun on the buildings. We left then, leaving the sun behind as drizzle accompanied us for the drive to our destination.
Reykjavík is a large city, and it has fast food like Subway, Quizno's, Taco Bell, etc, which we didn't see much in other places. A tank of gas for a small car costs over $55.▲